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PRESS STATEMENT: The Erosion of Democracy in Europe? Key observations from a consultation with stakeholders

12 June 2018

Statement by Birgit Van Hout, UN Human Rights Regional Representative for Europe:

“The erosion of democracy, weakening of institutions necessary for the protection of human rights, and the shrinking space for human rights defenders – and the people they serve – were the themes discussed at a meeting convened yesterday by the UN Human Rights Regional Office for Europe.

“At the consultation, representatives of inter-governmental regional organisations, umbrella groups, international human rights organisations, academia, national human rights institutions, and civil society stressed the urgency of the situation in Hungary and Poland.

“I would like to be a bit more specific about the areas of concern that have been highlighted by the international human rights mechanisms and the UN Human Rights Office. They include limitations on the independence of the judiciary; restrictions to freedom of expression, in particular the media; pressure on national human rights institutions, shrinking space for civil society; reduced access to national parliaments for civil society and the media; fast-tracking of legislation; constraints to freedom of association; restrictions to freedom of religion; incitement to hatred; and the curtailment of women’s rights. All these challenges endanger Hungary and Poland’s compliance with the international human rights treaties, which they have ratified.

 “Human rights defenders are under serious pressure and feel increasingly isolated. When media, civil society and public freedoms are curtailed and institutions weakened, how can electoral processes be credible? When human rights and the rule of law are abandoned, we are all at greater risk.

“This is about the fundamental values on which the European Union is built and, beyond that, about our universal values. Human rights are the pillar on which our societies are founded. We therefore call on the European leadership, citizens, and the business community to denounce the erosion of democracy, stop the further backsliding of human rights, and take the necessary measures to ensure the resilience of protection systems and the advancement of human rights.”

For further information or to schedule interviews with UN Human Rights, please contact:
Tomás M. Goldstein
United Nations Human Rights Regional Office for Europe (OHCHR)
E-mail: tomasgoldstein.consultant@ohchr.org
Tel: +32 2 274 0173